Evil Is Sterile YKTTW Discussion

Evil Is Sterile
Evil is a corruptive and destructive force only, fundamentally incapable of creation or goodness.
Needs Examples Better Name Tropeworthy? Motion To Discard
(permanent link) added: 2011-07-22 13:43:42 sponsor: bradpara edited by: Generality (last reply: 2014-10-04 09:33:22)

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The nature of evil is difficult to define. It is, after all, a highy subjective concept, which we never encounter in any truly concrete form. And so, writers have different ideas as to what evil means, what are its goals, its methods, its limitations.

One weakness typically ascribed to the force of evil is that it cannot create. The Power of Creation is seen as positive and Good, the purview of a God who is probably the Big Good of any given mythos. So, Evil Is Sterile. It cannot create, cannot imagine or have new ideas, certainly cannot produce new forms of life, because Creating Life Is Awesome. It may be able to propogate, but only in the manner of The Virus, by turning everything into more of itself, without the possibility of evolution, or the retention of the unique qualities that once inhabited what existed before.

Beings who have fallen under evil control, whether they are Reforged into a Minion or taken over by their Superpowered Evil Side, become cruder and twisted versions of themselves. They may gain power, but they lose crucial aspects that once made them special, and will probably not behave very intelligently.

Symbolically, this ties in with the idea that Dark Is Evil, because darkness is the absence of light and cannot change on its own. If is for this same reason that Good Hurts Evil.

Ultimately, the hope of this kind of evil is to, at best, corrupt the whole world into being just like itself, and at worst, destroy everything. The possibility of making something new and different is anathema to it.

A typical bonus is that Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. See also Evil Knockoff, The Corruption and Creative Sterility. Compare and contrast Creating Life Is Bad. Contrast Good Is Impotent.


Anime and Manga
  • Implied in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann- the Anti-Spiral opposes the growth of Spiral energy, which is produced by biological evolution. Thus, the Anti-Spiral opposes evolution and represents enforced stagnation. It has a series of protocols in place to deal with burgeoning Spiral races, which consist basically of increasing numbers of mindless automata that can only destroy. When the protagonists defeat the last of these measures, the only recourse the Anti-Spiral has is to match them in form and strength.

Comic Books
  • In Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Sheeda are so incapable of creating things that they have to travel through time and pillage previous civilizations in order to get the resources to maintain their own. The series as a whole could be considered a meta-commentary on the comic-book industry's tendency to plunder its own continuity for ideas.

  • In TRON and its sequel, Master Control and Clu respectively had this issue, which is why they were so big on repurposing opposing Programs.
  • The anti-war nightmare cartoon Wizards has a minor subplot involving the evil mutants' inability to create (healthy, sustainable) life.

  • This philosophy creeps steadily into the Belgariad's sequel series, the Malloreon. There are two Prophecies working at odds for the future of creation, and in the first series these are presented as simple good and evil, the Prophecies of Light and Dark. The sequel series gets into the idea that good and evil are subjective, and makes the Prophecies more about progress and stagnation, respectively. The good Prophecy wants to create a future in which new things happen, whereas the evil Prophecy wants everything to remain the same forever. The principle is aptly described by Garion's speech near the climax:
    You cannot lock me into immobility. If I change only one little thing, you've lost. Go stop the tide if you can, and leave me alone to do my work.
    • Also by David Eddings, The Redemption of Althalus has 3 gods in it; Daeva, the god of destruction who basically wants to destroy the universe just because it exists at all, cannot create anything new.
  • In the Keys to the Kingdom book series, it is mentioned that only The Architect, The Old One, or humans can create anything original. The Denizens can only copy things they've seen. This becomes important later.
  • A defining metaphysical law in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Evil cannot create anything new, they can only corrupt and ruin what good forces have invented or made. Melkor/Morgoth, the equivalent of Satan and creator of evil, desires to remake the world according to his image, but his image isn't terribly imaginitive, and he's fundamentally incapable of creating new life. He gains armies and servants by perverting and twisting existing beings (the Orcs, in some versions, are corrupted Elves), or by gaining the loyalty of existing spirits (the Balrogs and possibly the Dragons are his Fallen Angels).

    In the beginning of The Silmarillion, when the World is designed in cosmic song, Melkor attempts to take over the Music by interjecting of his own theme. It's "brash and repetitive," all brute force without subtlety, and it only perverts the concepts introduced by Eru (the equivalent of God) rather than inventing new ones.
  • In Mistborn, the two gods, Ruin and Preservation, can only create when they work together, which they are inherently loath to do. Ruin in particular is fundamentally unable to improve any situation, but instead leads everything toward chaos and destruction, which is just the way he likes it. At the end of the series, both gods are destroyed, and a main character takes in both of their powers, with which he can do essentially whatever he likes.
  • The Big Bad of Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker is the Un-Maker, a being of malevolence to all existence. As an entity of non-being, it is incapable of making or creating anything, even something non-physical, like a plan for undoing the works of Alvin Maker. It instead has to rely on its willing human tools to do that sort of thing for it.
  • In the Tour of the Merrimack series, the Hive is said only to learn and adapt, and unable to conceive new ideas.
  • In Pact, apart from making motes (weaker demons that bud off stronger ones) demons cannot create and can only destroy.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who has several villains which are stated to be this way; however, because they have to be frequently reinvented to keep the show fresh (or because the studio ran out of original props), they tend to change gradually over time. Notable examples include:
    • The cybermen, your basic robot assimilators. They can't reproduce and can only create more of themselves by stealing live humans and turning them into more cybermen. They can advance technologically but are incapable of evolution, biological or cultural, as they lack both reproduction and imagination. This means that the actual power and threat of an individual Cyberman varies from one episode to another, but their weaknesses tend to be retained.
    • The Daleks, your basic space fascists, invoke this by being Fantastic Racists: everything the slightest bit different from them is wrong and should be destroyed. This is, however, defied by the Cult of Skaro (a group of four Daleks who even had individual names) which was created for the sole purpose of imagination. Nevertheless, their appearance is updated frequently, and in the rebooted show has been completely redone almost every series. Their tactics also vary over time.

Video Games
  • In the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansion Shivering Isles, the amazingly creepy Knights of Order and their master Jyggalag are said to have no original thoughts whatsoever. Their fighting style reflects this - Jyggalag uses some spells, but the knights just swing swords at you until you or they die. When Order tries subterfuge, Sheogorath concludes that things aren't going so bad - Order doesn't try creativity unless everything else has failed, and they suck at it.
  • Fallout, the super mutants who are out to make all other humans mutants and destroy anything they can't transform, turn out to be sterile. This is a major plot point, as their Visionary Villain leader thinks mutants are the next evolution of humanity, and the revelation that every one of them is unable to reproduce means their race is doomed to eventually die out.
  • In Dragon Age, the Darkspawn are incapable of reproducing like other species. They also seem to be mindless brutes who are only capable of destroying things, although the existence of the Architect suggests that Darkspawn may have the capacity to be less destructive if they are freed from the Archdemon's control.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Mordin posits that the Reapers have no capacity for creativity, as evidenced by the fact that the creatures under their thrall are never seen creating anything.

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